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There aren’t many days when Rohit Sharma’s white-ball brilliance is eclipsed. It nearly happened at the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium on Wednesday when Afghanistan stunningly matched India’s mammoth 212-run total, dragged the contest into not one but two Super Overs before falling agonisingly short.
Afghanistan made 16 for one in the first Super Over, only for India to match it, helped by two sixes from Rohit. In the second tie-breaker, India scored 11 for two but Afghanistan were shot out for one run, with Ravi Bishnoi claiming both wickets to help sweep the series 3-0.
In a match that ebbed and flowed like an ocean wave on a full moon day, Rohit (121 n.o., 69b, 11×4, 8×6) and Rinku (69 n.o., 39b, 2×4, 6×6) rescued their side from a precarious 22 for four with a majestic 190-run partnership.
But Afghanistan showed its collective spirit as openers Rahmanullah Gurbaz (50, 32b, 3×4, 4×6) and Ibrahim Zadran (50, 41b, 4×4, 1×6) put on 93 from 11 overs, before two scarily good cameos from Gulbadin Naib (55 n.o., 23b, 4×4, 6×4) and Mohammad Nabi (34, 16b, 2×4, 3×6) almost flattened the host.
With 36 needed off the last two overs, India seemed ahead in the contest, only for Naib to hit 23 runs off Avesh Khan and Mukesh Kumar to even the tie and give the fans more than their money’s worth. Virat Kohli, who was out for a first-ball duck, showed his worth by reducing a potential six into two runs with a stellar leap at long-on in the 17th over.
Earlier, after deciding to bat, India was off to a disastrous start. Between a cut to the boundary from Rohit off the 13th ball of the innings to another from the captain off the 31st, the crowd was stunned into silence.
On a sluggish pitch, Kohli, Sanju Samson and Yashasvi Jaiswal all fell trying to execute cross-batted shots, as Fareed Ahmed bowled a fine first spell (3-0-10-3). Shivam Dube was caught acrobatically by wicket-keeper Gurbaz.
Little did Afghanistan know that that would be the last of its happy moments. At one point, Rohit was 13 off 22 deliveries, but he took off in the middle-overs, recalibrating his game splendidly to the pace of the wicket.
There were eight maximums, including a breathtaking reverse-swept six off tweaker Sharafuddin Ashraf. Rohit’s 64-ball century — a record-breaking fifth in T20Is — came in the 19th over when he hit Azmatullah Omarzai for a six over mid-wicket, a four past short-fine and for another boundary over point.
While all eyes were fixated on Rohit, Rinku proved to be the ghost in the ring, the kind of moving target Afghanistan found incredibly difficult to pin down. The result was a splendid T20 innings, that saw the southpaw even strike at a rate marginally higher than his skipper (176.92 to Rohit’s 175.36).
Rinku smashed half-a-dozen sixes, including three over the mid-wicket region off the last three balls of the innings, as Afghanistan bled 103 from the last five overs. The weight of the runs would have crushed most teams, but not the spirited Afghans.